With power restored on campus and the continuation of classes after Hurricane Sandy, students were quick to express suggestions and concerns regarding the university. Although a small number of people attended the open meeting held on Thursday, November 1, these voices represented KU’s student body.
From 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Academic Forum 20, Dr. F. Javier Cevallos, KU President, hosted an informal meeting with students to welcome thoughts or questions that could help improve the university. Matt Santos, University Relations Director, and Bob Watrous, Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Services & Campus Life, worked alongside President Cevallos to provide additional information and to answer campus-related questions.
Alumnus Cameo Pritchett began the discussion with the recent drop in return rates for the fall semester 2012.
“In times like this, we need [a motto] that will give students something to rely on in the back of their minds; something that can reassure them that ‘I’m a KU student’ versus any other school,” said Pritchett.
Despite the normal percentage of individuals that transfer or do not return because of academic reasons, 300 students were unable to return to KU.
“What was really different about this year was that the number [of unreturning students] was so high, which was a big surprise,” stated President Cevallos. “We want to understand where we are, what are the reasons why students are not coming back and what we can do to help.”
As a result, President Cevallos has been working with consultants to help with the university’s demographics. In addition, the KU Student Government Board has recently been looking to change advisement’s effect on students and methods to strengthen communication between advisors and advisees.
To help enrollment rates and the “attractiveness of the university,” KU has recently approved a Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design. The university is also planning on strengthening academic programs, as well as developing courses, such as engineering.
Campus renovations, such as Schaeffer Auditorium and Lehigh Hall, which are expected to be completed by the summer 2013, are additional methods to help increase enrollment.
“What we have done to make KU more attractive is actually make it attractive,” said President Cevallos, “We have a beautiful campus and those are the things that attract people to the university, so we should maintain it.”
According to President Cevallos, KU plans to renovate Berks Hall and Schuylkill Hall shortly after Lehigh Hall is complete. Because each renovation project receives its own funding and may depend on support from the state, President Cevallos hopes in the future to construct a new facility on the north side of campus. The building would replace Lytle Hall and include the departments of history, mathematics, english and modern languages.
Furthermore, KU is working to increase the number of minority fraternities and sororities in order to expand campus diversity.
“If we don’t educate the diverse population that we have in this country, we’re going to be in trouble as a nation,” said President Cevallos, “Fifty years from now, this is going to be a minority majority country, so we need to educate students.”
According to Watrous, there have been several struggles with chartering new fraternities and sororities due to national and local requirements, such as the expansion policy—a policy that requires organizations to have a broad range of members in order for colonization to occur.
“The problem in creating different organizations is that they need to have a minimum number of individuals that are interested to colonize,” said Waltrous. “And that minimum number has to represent freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for eight young women or men that are going to be graduating in a year to bring something on board, then the membership dies.”
Watrous stated that out-of-pocket expenses in creating a national chapter, which can range from $900 to $1,000, have been an additional issue with colonization as well as the annual fees system. Although the price of fees depends on the organization, common dues are between $500 and $600.
With the remaining time of the open meeting, topics such as dining hall services, advisement, scholarships and strike concerns were the last to be discussed.
President Cevallos plans to host a second open meeting before the end of the semester. For more information, students can contact Santos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Marianella Orlando